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From The CriticsReviewer: Cynthia R. Weitz, M.A. (Montgomery County Public Schools)
Description: This book provides both an overview of issues involved in providing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) services for beginning communicators as well as in-depth discussions of many of these issues. The information is accessible to the practitioner yet clearly outlines areas in need of greater research.
Purpose: The authors propose to increase our "understanding of how to approach the task of initiating functional strategies that establish beginning communication skills in a timely manner among individuals who are at risk for developing speech comprehension and production skills," particularly through the use of a continuum of AAC strategies. The authors also hope to "stimulate future practice and applied research" in the field. This book fills a gap in the AAC literature by providing comprehensive discussions of topics relevant to this population. The authors meet their objectives admirably.
Audience: The book addresses issues that are relevant and useful to the practitioner, advanced student, and researcher in the field of AAC. Each chapter provides information and discussion that can be applied in practice as well as outlining areas in need of further "experimental scrutiny." The book editors and individual chapter authors are those with knowledge and experience in the field of AAC.
Features: The authors set the tone for the book by focusing the first chapters on clearly defining a beginning communicator, looking at the continuum of communication skills, and then understanding the continuum of AAC skills and the role AAC plays in language intervention. There is in-depth discussion of strategies to establish many of the basic communication functions that we find early on in typically developing individuals, such as requesting and protesting. The authors provide an important discussion on strategies for achieving "socially acceptable escape and avoidance," a critical need for many beginning communicators. Significantly, the book recognizes the importance of providing AAC users the skills needed to go beyond requesting and protesting to achieve social closeness with their communication partners. The authors also provide an important discussion of the use of AAC strategies to enhance the communication of children with severe intelligibility issues. They provide guidelines for the use of a least to most hierarchy of intervention, with speech as the beginning strategy and ending with the use of VOCA. There is discussion of the use of topic and alphabet boards and the role they play in this hierarchy. The authors recognize the need to individualize decision-making and provide several good vignettes to illustrate the use of the information in this area.
Assessment: This book fills an important gap in the AAC literature. It provides not only clearly articulated best practices for practitioners working with and making decisions regarding AAC use for beginning communicators, but points out those areas in need of greater research.